Update below with a potential change to deal with aggro better.
Bigger update below with deck change!
Added a section about what to watch out for when playing.
One more section about recent experiments
Small deck change for more card draw
A Standard deck I've come up with using Devilsaur Egg and Skelemancer and giving them Taunt as well as other buffs from various sources. You can furthermore make several copies of them (which will copy any Taunt) and resurrect any destroyed ones with Twilight's Call (and you can then buff/copy those minions all over again).
I've been having quite some success with it so I want to post it here and get some feedback and see what room there is for further improvement. It is a budget deck as I do not have a lot of dust nor legendaries/epics, luckily though this deck doesn't actually need any.
The main strategy is to delay/slow in the early game if possible using your 1 and 2 mana minions and spells if needed. In most games I've been able to stay quite even. If the opponent is playing aggro there are some options as you have Tar Creeper, Shadow Ascendant, Sunfury Protector as well as the Unidentified Elixir and Glacial Shard.
If the opponent is not very aggro you can keep your buff/taunt minions until you can play Devilsaur Egg or Skelemancer. The main play you want to do is play a Skelemancer (which almost always survives the turn because the opponent does not want to give you an 8/8) and start giving it Taunt and copying it. Elixir on it is also fine. The bigger it gets, the better the trade you can make with it. Just be careful that you do not get it killed on your turn. Devilsaur Egg is also fine to play and can be played earlier as it is only 3 mana. You can also choose to play the Devilsaur Egg and immediately give it Taunt/Elixir rather than a Skelemancer (depending on the board). If possible try to give your egg atleast 1 attack so you can trade with it or force the opponent to take minion damage. Just Taunt is also fine because the 5/5 will be active on your turn if he kills the egg. The advantage with the egg is that it's fine to kill it yourself by throwing it at an opponent's minion (though the 5/5 won't activate on that turn).
From there on out it can get out of hand for your opponent very quickly. Not only will there be Skelemancers/Devilsaur Eggs with Taunt on the board (saving your face), they'll spawn 8/8s and 5/5s if he attacks into them. And that's the idea. Even if your opponent kills them and manages to also destroy the 8/8s and 5/5s, you can bring your Skelemancers and Devilsaur Eggs back with Twilight's Call and start all over again. And often your opponent will simply not be able to kill them all because of the copies and stickiness. This will very often mean you can end up making more copies or buffing further and escalating into a victory.
Copies, Buffs and Deathrattles
This deck can force many unfavorable trades for your opponent and provide a large amount of Taunt as well as soft Taunts in the form of the 8/8s. You also end up with a few Sunfury Protectors/Defender of Argus/Mirage Callers on the board for additional poke and control.
The Mirage Caller is your primary utility in that it can copy many useful minions depending on the situation. The ideal copy is a Skelemancer that already has Taunt, as the 1/1 copy will also have Taunt and still spawn an 8/8. The Unidentified Elixir buff that gives Divine Shield, Lifesteal or a 'Deathrattle: Return to your hand' will also be copied. The only other elixir gives you a 1/1 copy which is also perfect. Depending on the board and what you have you can Mirage Caller whatever helps you best. In one game I copied a Shadow Ascendant early on and it snowballed into an early victory with endless double 1/1 buffs (I kept clearing the opponent's board and healing my minions, escalating the situation).
Once this deck gets any traction (and that can happen quite quickly) it can escalate very fast whilst still having some tools against aggro (though it can lose to it). Everything aimed at buffing your Skelemancers and Devilsaur Eggs can always be used to buff any of your minions if you need it to survive or trade favorably.
Things to watch out for when playing
As amazing as certain plays can be (for instance double Twilight's Call with double Sunfury Protector to give all four Taunt) there is actually quite an importance to the order of things. The primary issue you want to avoid is making it too easy for your opponent to clear your board AND then your Deathrattle minions on the same turn. Try to stagger it so you can bring a Deathrattle minion to the board every turn.
The ideal scenario is having two Deathrattle minions up (with Taunt if possible) and some decent minions safely sitting behind them. For instance if you have two Devilsaur Eggs on the board and your opponent pops them, you get two 5/5s your next turn. Using Twilight's Call at that turn is great because you are protecting your two 5/5s from board clear with your resurrected Devilsaur Eggs. If a Mage for instance uses a boardclear to destroy your 5/5s, you get two new ones. You maintain presence on the board.
Try to avoid putting all your Deathrattle minions with nothing behind them on the board (unless you don't have anything else) as the Devilsaur Eggs and Skelemancers run the risk of being killed by your opponent's minions or cheap waveclear (Defile for example) and then followed up by a big board clear.
The same applies with your various buffs, try to spread them out so that one Silence or Transform won't instantly cancel your momentum. Lastly, Skelemancers are great when they're protecting something with Taunt but terrible on their own because you can't pop them yourself. If possible try to ensure that atleast one Devilsaur Egg dies first so that it can be brought back by Twilight's Call. A Devilsaur Egg is fine to pop yourself and will give you a 5/5 protected by a Skelemancer with Taunt.
The main weaknesses of this deck is that it runs no hard removal of any kind, only running some Silence effects. Any type of Transform or Silence can really slow you down and get you killed before you can get going. Devolve can be very painful although Skelemancers and Devilsaur Eggs can devolve into better raw stats than what their mana costs (Skelemancer being a 5 mana 2/2 for example). With thanks to Polar168, I can also confirm that a silenced Deathrattle minion still counts for Twilight's Call when it dies. This can provide a little comeback against Silences.
Against Polymorph and Hex the goal is to simply get more copies on the board than your opponent has spells. If you suspect the opponent might have it, don't be afraid to throw out a Devilsaur Egg rather than a Skelemancer and buff/copy it earlier to bait out the spell. As long as two of either your Devilsaur Eggs or Skelemancers die (or you managed to get enough copies through Mirage Caller or Unidentified Elixir) you're fine as you can just create way more copies than your opponent can deal with.
To help ensure you get any type of combination off there is some card draw in the form of Novice Engineer, Northshire Cleric and Power Word: Shield. Do not be afraid to buff those minions if it helps you get a good position the board as well as more cards. Favorable trades help this deck by allowing the buffs to keep going as well as preventing the opponent from doing too much damage to your face early on (which can be a problem with aggro). Nearly all the cards can buff or help each other so you'll find it rare that don't have some kind of answer in your hand, though it is harder to pull off in the early game with limited mana.
As for the mulligan, the preference is any of your 1 or 2 mana minions, Elixir is fine as well. A Devilsaur Egg in the hand is fine if you have a way to give it Taunt or atleast 1 attack for 1 or 2 mana, otherwise trade it in because it could be a liability against aggro if you can't force anything with it.
There are a few other cards that I have considered or am still considering that could be good in this deck. The one exception is actually Carnivorous Cube because it has strong anti-synergy with Skelemancer (which has to die on your opponent's turn) AND Twilight's Call (which won't trigger the cube's Battlecry, making it useless).
This deck runs three spells (Elixir, Twilight and Power Word) meaning you would be 100% garantueed to get either Elixir or Twilight as a potential copy. Which means more potential copies or buffs.
More copies and if you copy a minion that received the Deathrattle buff from Corpse Raiser, that buff also gets copied. Could potentially flood the board with Skelemancers or Devilsaur Eggs. It does put a lot of stuff on one minion, meaning that any Transform or Silence gets great value against it. It also adds another poor stats for mana minion on the board, of which I'm not sure that's good.
More copies and it could ofcourse copy that Skelemancer that got an Elixir and other buffs and is now big itself with Taunt and still spawning an 8/8 when it dies. Awesome copy target that would make. Funny potential as well as you could copy a scary minion from your opponent and if it has a Deathrattle, you can bring it back with Twilight's Call as well as make copies of it (imagine that with Tirion Fordring).
A small consideration but one that could be interesting as it could allow you to return a Sunfury Protector, Defender of Argus to your hand to provide more Taunts for your other minions. It is also a 3/2 for 2 mana so it could be decent early game to just throw on an empty board.
Awaken the Makers for Amara, Warden of Hope
Since we're making copies of Deathrattle minions, Amara could actually be quite good in this deck. It is a Legendary card so it isn't cheap but I do think it could be a strong addition.
N'Zoth, the Corruptor
Brings back all your Deathrattle minions. Again.
A lot of potential in this card, though sadly it is a Legendary card that will be rotating out in April so it isn't included in this deck. If you do have him, feel free to give him a try as I do think he's strong with this deck. Keep in mind though that you could end up with a board filled with 2/2 Skelemancers and no room to buff them or give them Taunt.
I'm sure there might be other cards that could be good (Spiritsinger Umbra could be nice with Devilsaur Egg and any copies you make of it). Note that due to my limited dust I have excluded (and will exclude) any pre-Un'Goro cards since they'll rotate out in April. Thing to note is that Devolve will rotate out in April so this deck will fare a little better against Shaman once the rotation hits.
I would love to hear any comments, ideas and suggestions on how to further improve this deck. It's been doing very well so far, really losing only to strong aggro that got the right cards and my starting hand not being too good. Aggro can kill this before it gets off the ground but I've had a few games already where I stabilized against it and won later on.
I've removed the Stubborn Gastropod and put in a second Sunfury Protector. The additional Taunt is just too good to miss. You simply get a better chance at having the ability to provide Taunt to your Deathrattle minions and it's still a 2/3 for 2 mana in case you just need the body on the board or early defense.
Also, thanks to Polar168 I can now confirm that a Deathrattle minion hit with Silence will still be resurrected with Twilight's Call. Whilst the Silence does still hurt, you have a better chance of getting more copies of your Deathrattle minions than your opponent can Silence.
Added Awaken the Makers for Amara, Warden of Hope as a potential inclusion in this deck as it could be a strong addition, if an expensive one.
Deck change expirement (not reflected yet in deck cards on the right)
After playing a bit more and also hearing feedback I've made two changes that have improved the deck stability a bit in my own games. I've swapped out Dire Wolf Alpha for Glacial Shard and Bonemare for Spellbreaker. Whilst the Bonemare loss does hurt a bit, I've found that this deck can do quite well without it (as it takes a while before you could even play it).
There is still enough buffing and taunt going around to keep the deck going with the Deathrattle minions. This is still a bit of an expirement but so far having Glacial Shard being able to Freeze scary minions for a turn and Spellbreaker to Silence a scary target has helped quite a bit in a few games. Feel free to experiment on your own and let me know the results.
Bigger update with deck change
After a lot of games and feedback (thank you all for that), I've made the following changes to the deck and it has helped a lot against aggro.
- 2x Bonemare
- 2x Acherus Veteran
- 2x Dire Wolf Alpha
- 1x Cobalt Scalebane
+ 2x Spellbreaker
+ 2x Tar Creeper
+ 2x Glacial Shard
+ 1x Mass Dispel
Cards that went out
Bonemare, whilst still a good card, was simply too expensive and not that much of a huge board swing with 8 mana. By that time usually you'll have your Deathrattle minions with Taunt on the board, adding only +4 / +4. Usually that will be on a Skelemancer which you can then trade once without getting it killed yourself. Good, but not very reliable and with 8 mana it is just too expensive.
Acherus Veteran simply didn't have enough impact. The +1 attack isn't really needed when there are so many other ways to buff Devilsaur Eggs (the only card that needs + attack). Any Devilsaur Egg copies made will be 1/1 and can thus attack. Therefore it isn't really needed in the deck.
Dire Wolf Alpha isn't really needed for the same reason as Acherus Veteran.
Cobalt Scalebane is still a good card and 2 of them might still be solid but I've currently been expirementing with running just 1 and so far it has gone pretty well and it gave me the room to add a Mass Dispel.
Cards that have been added
Glacial Shard is a 2/1 like Acherus Veteran but it provides control. It can freeze that big scary minion that is being aggro for a full turn whilst still providing a decent 1 mana body.
Spellbreaker adds some much needed countermeasures to various threats as well as denying Taunt. It also provides a nice 4/3 body to boot. Being able to Silence an early scary threat or a lategame big Taunt is a huge benefit to this deck.
Tar Creeper adds early/midgame defense. This can buy you the extra time or cards needed to get the Deathrattle train going. I'm not 100% sold that Tar Creeper is the best card for this but its worked quite well so far. Perhaps a single Tar Creeper and one Shadow Word: Pain could also be an option.
Mass Dispel adds some midgame/lategame board-wide threat clear. Especially against multiple Taunt minions or other buffed/powerful minions this can be a real lifesaver, the card draw is a nice bonus as well. It doesn't kill anything but it makes it so any Taunts are gone, allowing Skelemancers to go for face and forcing your opponent to deal with them more urgently.
That's it for now with the deck changes, I hope they'll improve your games and I'll naturally keep playing myself and trying out other improvements. Any further constructive feedback is always appreciated!
I've been experimenting with a few different cards, with some varying results. One thing I did generally find is that Novice Engineer is actually quite decent in the deck because it gives card draw and a 2 mana minion you can actually play early on. Even as just a 1/1 it can be a target for buffs or Power Word: Shield or just give you something to play for 2 mana. I ran with two Novice Engineers for a while, trading out Cobalt Scalebane and an Acolyte of Pain. The acolyte is nice but doesn't give a card straight away and usually gets you only one card anyway. The Cobalt Scalebane is still a good card but by the time you play it you generally don't need it that much to buff other things since your Deathrattles should've started to get going by then.
I've also been trying a single Corpse Raiser instead of one of the Novice Engineers. It adds some nice utility because you can choose to target it on one of your Deathrattle minions to add a third level of board clear your opponent would need to completely clear the board. If you use it on a Skelemancer for example, you'll get another one alongside the 8/8 when it dies. You can also use it on the 8/8 itself and even start making copies, each of which will bring back an 8/8 when it dies. It does mean Silence/Transform effects become stronger.
Also been trying Bone Drake and had some varying results. It's great if you get a big strong dragon (Ysera is fun) but can also get you a crappy one like Fearie Dragon. The main issue I've had with it is that it doesn't provide a threat when it is brought back, but it does give you cards which is really good. Having a strong dragon protected from board clear by Deathrattle minions is quite strong.
Will keep on experimenting, in the meantime feel free to keep the ideas/suggestions coming!
Made a small deck change, the two Acolyte of Pain cards have been replaced with Novice Engineer. It is simply a more reliable, cheaper and faster way to get cards. It also adds a much needed 2 drop. The other change is the replacement of Cobalt Scalebane for Cult Master. The Scalebanes are nice but they don't really add anything the deck needs, whereas the Cult Master can get you a ton of cards. Especially if you can make a copy and can trade a minion or two you can get a hand full of cards.
It's been a while but Boomsday finally brought a new minion for this deck, the Mechanical Whelp. While it is expensive at 6 mana, the fact it spawns a 7/7 makes it all the better for Twilight's Call. They replace the Power Word: Shields which weren't all that impactful in the deck.
The other major change is that two Shadow Visions have been added. While it is an epic card, it is a very strong addition to this deck. It can get you another Twilight's Call, Unidentified Elixir, Mass Dispel or Divine Hymn (that spell is also new for this deck, see below). The power of that can be amazing at times. Usually you'll just want more Twilight's Call.
They replace the Glacial Shards which weren't that bad as they provided a little bit of control but Shadow Visions is just so good in comparison.
The final change is replacing Cult Master with a Divine Hymn. Being able to heal AoE for 6 has a lot of utility. You can use it after you trade with your 5/5, 7/7 or 8/8's and heal them back up. If you have a Northshire Cleric available, you can draw a ton of cards and lastly it can just be used as a cheap heal should you need it.